From Net-a-Porter’s Net Set to Penguin’s My Independent Bookshop, it’s not a radically new idea for brands to launch their own social networks. But Under Armour’s ambition to rival mainstream networks with its own media platform is a particularly healthy move.
As seen in health and fitness’s dominance of wearables, it’s a market that’s hungry for digital innovation. But more than that, it’s a category that’s driven by an unparalleled level of fandom (the crucial ingredient behind any successful social network). From Protein Princesses through to Spornosexuals and MAMILs, the new breed of fitness fanatics is incredibly socially conspicuous and they love to strut their stuff across the likes of Instagram and Strava.
Fitness updates shared by friends and those held in admiration help to normalise exercise and ‘nudge’ people into picking up their trainers. Even more effectively, social networks tap into people’s rampant competitive nature by challenging connections into beating goals and achievements.
This propensity to amplify achievements across bespoke social networks will be further enhanced by new technology. The ongoing affinity between fitness and tech is only going to get stronger when connected clothing hits the market and adoption of wearables becomes more mainstream. Such innovations mean fitness freaks will be able to tangibly visualise how they’re performing and swiftly publish their results across purpose-built networks.
So it will come as no surprise to anyone who understands basic human behaviour that fitness-dedicated social networks, like Under Armour’s Record, can positively shape habits. This is something the sector can derive immense value from when gym memberships, that wither if users don’t form a regular gym habit, are a vital revenue stream.
Given the social media’s ability to augment exercise habits, combined with the painful churn rates experienced by many health club chains, it almost beggars belief that more gyms brands haven’t tested how white-labeled versions of social networks affect membership longevity.
If a fitness brand is bold enough to create its own social network, gym bunnies whose habits have been changed for the better by the network will, at least in some part, attribute their success to the brand and reward that brand with sales and loyalty.
Social is arguably the most effective channel for connecting with fitness fanatics in a personalised and habit-forming way; building bridges with customers that ultimately lead to loyalty and business growth.
When looking at the future relationship between health clubs and members, gym bunnies and fitness brands, social is the healthy way forward for both user and brand. So here’s hoping Under Armour’s trailblazing example will not just nudge users, but also the sector’s marketers, into taking social media more seriously.